Sunday, July 05, 2009

The Importance of Listening to Yourself

A fundamental reality underlying trading psychology is that we know more than we know we know. Much of what we know is a felt, gut hunch--not a set of explicitly formed ideas. Those internal cues are lost when we are swamped by emotions from negative learning experiences. It takes an unattached mind--a mind free from worries, fears, internal demands--to keep tuned to our gut. In quieting body and mind, we gain access to the felt knowledge we possess, but may not realize we possess. That is why so many of the brief therapy techniques that I teach to traders --what I call therapy for the mentally well-- are designed to regain control of body and mind. It is not by accident that half of the chapters in my book on self-coaching are devoted to these techniques.

Loss of discipline is the most common concern of traders who seek psychological assistance. But equally important, if not as recognized, is the related tendency to not listen to oneself. So many times, we *know* what we should be doing and do not act. Sometimes out of second-guessing ourselves, sometimes out of fear, sometimes out of listening to others rather than ourselves. We know--and at some level we even know we know--but we don't listen to that knowledge. This creates a double consequence: a missed opportunity, but also a loss of confidence. It is difficult to sustain confidence in our judgment if we routinely engage in cognitive self-betrayal.

After the hard work of analysis is done--we've performed the research, read the news reports, observed the charts, talked to colleagues--it remains for the mind's implicit mode to perform the synthesis. Without the data that come from long hours of observation, the mind has nothing to synthesize: we need to first see many patterns before we can recognize those patterns in real time. But if we do not listen to ourselves--if we remain stuck in analysis, or if we entertain so much mental noise that we cannot hear our syntheses--the many hours of learning are lost.

Many gurus would have you listen to them for guidance. The only real wisdom, however, comes from listening to yourself.